Sunderban Tiger Reserve lies to the extreme south east of West Bengal state in India. Me and my partner, Shreya, had been wanting to go there for the longest time. When we both could take out some time from our schedules we made a trip to Sunderbans. She flew from Thailand as she teaches there and reached here late night on Friday. We had booked our travel with TourdeSundarbans. They are a travel company dedicated to the beautiful mangroves in Sundarbans. We were picked up from Science City in Kolkata and driven to the starting point of Sundarbans, Godkhali. The journey was very comfortable as there was a AC vehicle waiting for us. There was a group of around 30 people with some of them belonging to the corporate ICICI Bank. We were then taken to the the island of Gosaba where people from nearby villages were gathering for the market. Our eco-village was located on the island of Satjelia, where we headed next. The transfers were all well managed and we had 3-4 people always helping with the whole process. Our favourite was Mowgli. He dressed and had an attitude like Mowgli, the jungle book character. We were served lunch at the eco-village. Since we were both vegetarians we had informed the guides earlier and we were well taken care of.
The whole fun starts when you proceed to the boat ride. The boat ride lasted nearly 4 hours and we were taken to three watch towers. I enjoyed the ride more than the watch towers but people were somehow always looking for the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. We had the most lovely time on the boat with wind blowing and endless mangroves to see. We could see many crocodiles and deer but there was no sign of the Bengal Tiger. The Royal Bengal Tiger is a endangered species as there has been massive poaching and loss of natural habitat to the big cat. Efforts are in place to get the numbers up and this has been a luke warm success. There are sightings, but not at all frequent. The villagers are also being made to undergo intensive capacity development so that they can co-exist with the big cat. Most of the confrontations happen when the villager is fishing or hunting. Then the big cat is killed as revenge in a act of rage. The Royal Bengal tiger is a victim of its circumstances. The only way to increase the numbers is by creating awareness and thinking of ways to return some of the land to the rightful owners, the animals. Stricter norms are needed where it comes to tourism so that we can continue to enjoy this heaven.
We then stopped at a island with wet mud all around the island. It looked as if the island had spent most of its time under water. Everyone got down and had good fun on the island. We ran, skidded and fell but is was great to relive our childhood days. The camaraderie in the group could be felt from the very beginning as each and everyone participated in the fun. When it was time to leave it was very relaxing to just lay on the boat. In the evening there was a cultural show that had been put up for us. Mowgli and his other team members put up a great show and the energy was insane. They played traditional Baul music and got many musicians from the nearby village to chip in. We sat on the stage next to the musicians and one of them also gave us their instrument to try out. Every now and then Mowgli would go into a trance and get up and dance as hard as he could. This created much excitement in the crowd. Everyone was in high spirits and thoroughly enjoyed the dinner. We retired to our room under the starry night without any sounds to keep us in our world. We drifted into the dreamy wonderland and all we needed and got was love.